The Beginning of the War

Maitla wrote the following about finding out that the war had started: "I was in the Värska Southern Camp near Petseri. It was Sunday and I happened to be in Petseri. Two girls from Tapa and Lieutenant Roomets were with me. The latter was engaged in some sort of marriage issues. We were supposed to have lunch at the Black Cat. I passed Endla's house so that she could come with. While Endla was getting dressed, I heard music from the radio. Then they announced that Molotov will now give a speech in Moscow. They also said it was a special announcement. I thought that a real bomb has exploded somewhere. Molotov's first words followed. He said that this morning the German units had crossed the Soviet Union's border."

Paul continues in his journal that he had never understood Russian as well as then. What he had been waiting for by holding his breath had now arrived. "I cheered," he wrote, "Endla asked what had happened. I said that the war began and soon we'll get rid of the communists. Endla started to cry because I had to go to the front and might not return." He tried to comfort her. The journal continues: "I had never felt more sure of myself than when I found out about the war. I will surely return. When Estonia is free and stays free. I have to do my part so that the communists would go away soon."

Paul and Endla went to the Black Cat to tell the good news to Lieutenant Roomets and the girls from Tapa – the war had begun! On his way Paul felt amazing, he wanted to scream to the people on the streets. After the girls and Lieutenant Roomets left, Paul and Endla stayed together in the Balck Cat. "I felt strangely restless," the journal says, "I wanted to rush somewhere, but there was no place to go." With pressing thoughts buzzing in his head, Paul went back to the camp in the evening. Endla had sent him. The camp was full of fizzle and rustle. The Russians had strange faces but there were joy on the faces of the Estonians. The Commissar had already had a meeting and called the men to battle on behalf of the socialist homeland.

It was probably one of those kind of meetings that Juhan Peegel describes in his book "Ma langesin esimesel sõjasuvel" (translation: I Fell on the First Summer of the War) and which took place in the Värska Northern Camp: the Fascists will not win because our army has stronger morale and weapons. Our Commanders are wiser, we are led by the party and the genius Stalin. Our homefront is strong. The enemy will soon be crushed and we will be heading on a victorious road to Berlin. On that night Paul couldn't care less about the Red Army's victorious road to Berlin. He was tired and went to the Ersova village where he had an apartment. He lied on his bed. Then he didn't know yet that it was one of his last nights in between two sheets.

On the next morning, June 23, on Midsummer Eve, a big fuzz began in the camp. A whole bunch of Russian lieutenants were brought in before the evening. According to the rumors they had been in the military school for only four months but now some of them became Company Commanders. The first official war announcements came. The Germans had been beaten back everywhere with great losses. Men realized at once that this was not true. "On the next day," Paul wrote, "It was June 24, the attack to Petseri began where the regiment was to be formed into a battle-ready unit. The additional men came from Russia of course. The attack took place in full battle order, only the ammunition was missing and we didn't get it for a really long time. Once we were facing the enemy in Russia, the invincible Red Army's leaders trusted us some shells, some guns, but no real ammunition while I was there."